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Have Fun in the Sun and Get Your Vitamin D Too!

Long gone are the days of gulping down cod liver oil to ensure your body is getting the recommended amount of Vitamin D. In fact, your best and cheapest source is right outside the window: the sun, specifically UVB rays. It’s true; ten to fifteen minutes in the sun, three times a week is enough for most people to produce about 90% of the recommended amount you need.

This “Sunshine Vitamin” plays an important role in the health of your bones, the strength of your immune system and even the expression of your genes. Deficiency of vitamin D is known to cause osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children. And, more and more studies show that it may have a protective effect on bone health and immunity.

Why is this important? Because surprisingly, Vitamin D deficiency is fairly common in the US.

Now, before we all run outside in our birthday suits to get our D, let’s take a look at the various factors that can affect the amount of UVB rays that penetrate the skin and work on vitamin D production.

  1. Age – Older adults produce much less vitamin D from sun exposure than young adults.
  2. Skin type – Unrelated to race, D production depends upon the skins sensitivity to sun and the amount of melanin it has. Melanin absorbs UVB rays and reduces the production of vitamin D. Darker skin means more melanin and longer sun exposure required to make the same amount of vitamin D compared to those with lighter skin (and less melanin).
  3. Where you live – In latitudes above 35° (north of Atlanta, GA) little to no vitamin D production happens November through February. Further north no production of D happens for about six months! Those below the 35° can enjoy year long vitamin D production from the sun.
  4. Season – Late spring through early fall is when the sun’s UVB rays are the strongest and your skin is best able to produce vitamin D.
  5. Time of day – The greatest production happens between 11am and 2pm.
  6. Use of sunscreen – Sun protection factor (SPF) ranges from 2 - 60. SPF 8 blocks skin capacity to produce vitamin D by 95% and SPF 15 blocks 98%.

How can you enjoy your summer, get your vitamin D and avoid getting sunburned? Remember, this is a total of 30 to 45 minutes a week and it doesn’t have to be consecutive.

For those who are unable to make enough vitamin D through sun exposure alone — speak to your medical professional about having your levels tested to know for sure — vitamin D supplements are available as an option.

So next time you are out and about, park a little further away from your destination, read a book and let your legs sit in the sun, walk your dog or toss a Frisbee with your kids.

What do you do to ensure you get enough vitamin D?


Reference Source: Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults: When to Test and How to Treat; Kurt A. Kennel, Matthew T. Drake, Daniel L. Hurley; Mayo Clin Proc. 2010 August; 85(8): 752–758. doi: 10.4065/mcp.2010.0138; PMCID: PMC2912737


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Hope says …

Although sun exposure does assist in vitamin D production, it also causes 90% of all skin cancers. If you have an active lifestyle, you will get enough ultraviolet rays. Remember that sunscreens do not block ALL of the sun's radiation so you will receive the small amount necessary through your sunscreen. Both the Dermatology Nurses' Association and the American Academy of Dermatology continue to recommend daily use of full spectrum UVA and UVB blocking sunscreens. And don't forget to reapply every 2-3 hours. Have fun outside but be safe.

Dr. Susan Burger says …

I had a melanoma removed in 1995. Word was that I was to stay out of the sun. in my research I found that there is actually an indication that some sun exposure and the increased vitamin D ( among other things we probably aren't aware of yet) actually decreased the incidence of melanoma. We have become so afraid of the sun that we have hidden from a source of health and energy. As always, everything in moderation. And more of all things natural! Another comment: just lying on the grass in the sun or walking on the dirt with bare feet helps us connect with the earth's energy - which is also beneficial! We are part of all things natural! Oh, and sun screen isn't always a good idea - lots of chemicals there too that are absorbed through the skin...

Kaley Rivera says …

I don't think sitting in sunlight early morning must be causing skin cancer. I personally like enjoying sunlight warmth every morning and it feels very refreshing after that.

Rick Fingerman says …

I agree with Dr. Burger's comments. I follow Dr. Holick's advice pertaining to this topic as depicted in this clip below. http://www.uvadvantage.org/portals/0/pres/

Gayle says …

Vitamin D is essential for health. If u want more of it from the sun slather yourself in organic extra virgin coconut oil (Tropical Traditions) and let it absorb before going into the sun. The oil is a natural sunscreen. If u immediately go into the sun it will tan instead of screen the sun. Trust me it works! It is the only thing I use in my hair, on my face and body. For a good source of Vit D3 (never buy D2) use Premier Research Labs D3 serum.

MARY ANN says …

There is nothing better for your mood than to feel the warmth of the sun on your body. Not only does it price vitamin D but it's a mood enhancer as well. S to the sunscreen you won't catch me using a chemical based one on the biggest organ we have our skin. There are natural based sunscreens out there, much better idea to enjoy more time in the sun.

cassandra d. wallace says …

This was a very good article and I also enjoyed the reference material from Mayo Clinic. Thank you. It was very useful for me.

Aimee says …

Reading how only below 35° latitude can humans get vitamin D from the sun year round reminds one that humans evolved as tropical creatures and still seem to function best near the equator. Otherwise we need clothes and houses to artificially maintain a tropical temperature.

Bob says …

What is the source of WFM Vitamine D3 - Fish or Sheep ? The bottle label does not say.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@BOB - I was able to check with our Whole Body department and if it is the "Whole Foods" brand, it comes from lanolin, sheep's wool.

blanca says …

hola queria saber q es bueno para el estress

Rod says …

It's the billion dollar industry that's scared you out of the sun and into spending money on pills and sunscreens. Sunscreens are full of chemicals and are now known to cause skin cancer. Your body and all living things need air, sun(uv) and water to survive. All this sunscare which is mostly funded by cosmetic company's is making people sick. Rickets is making a come back. Everything in moderation.

J R says …

Is Whole Foods Vitamin D3 non-GMO? Does it use bovine gelatin?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JR - Our Whole Foods brand supplements have not gone through the non-GMO verification process so we cannot say they are non-GMO. The gelatin is both bovine and porcine.